Just as everybody else I’ve been reading the debate over the idea of Iris Alba a black man playing the role of James Bond 007. Most people follow the debate directly and argue should a black person be allowed to play a character which has historically been played by white actors? While that is an interesting question I think a better question is why would a black person want to play 007?
If a Black/African person was to become James Bond they would be a sell-out. Not the actor who played him the character in the movie. First let’s look at who agent James Bond Mr. 007 is. James Bond is an agent for the British Secret Service AKA Her Majesty's Secret Service. He doesn’t work for the people of Britain he protects the Queen and her empire which happens to include England and other foreign interests. These interests are countries in Africa.
Selling a Black James Bond would not be easy because of the role England has played and still does play in Africa. James Bond is respected as a smart man and if he doesn’t know what England is doing in Africa to his own people then he would be dumber than Babar. I was taught that you have to help yourself before you help others. For a black superhero to run around protecting New York or any other city is like a father who protects the neighborhood but does nothing about the people robbing and mistreating his own family.
Also being a secret agent is really a punkass move. When you think about the concept of a secret agent it’s a slick way of fighting. Its like slipping small pox in blankets and giving them to Native Americans or presenting a city who you can’t beat with a Trojan Horse. Sure war isn’t fair but I respect the warriors like Mimnon who Brad Pitts character in Troy was based on. He would challenge the general of an opposing army to a one on one fight to side step an army to army battle. I respect the fighters in Kung Fu movies who had honor in their fights and would bow before they would start fighting to the death. Sniping and spying are punk moves but we enjoy them. We accept them when they are used to protect us from dastardly villains.
I say all of that to still say would I go see Idris Alba as James Bond? Hell yeah. I love James Bond. I just think there is a lot to think about when writing a Black 007 story. When I think of a black spy I think of The Spook Who Sat by the Door. I think for a black person to be a spy or even a global hero they have to be clear on who the enemy is and who they are fighting for. That’s a concern I have with black superheroes like Black Panther.
I don’t think it is wrong for there to be a black version because as many others have said James Bond is a rebooted character. A variety of actors have played him. I also think black people should create their own black spy stories. As a writer I of course have my own spy story. In fact I am part of group of black writers headed by author Milton Davis who are developing black secret agent stories to put into an anthology. We call it Spyfunk , so support us on Facebook. We are not the first black people to write black secret agent stories. My favorite black secret agent story is by Nigerian author Valentine Alily called Mark of the Cobra. My facebook friend Steven Barnes and his wife Tananarive Due have a series starting with Casanegra: A Tennyson Hardwick. Then there’s Black Pulp an anthology of black syp type heroes.